What is Tantric Sex?
There are a lot of myths surrounding what tantric sex looks and feels like. Ever since singer Sting said in an interview some 20 years ago that he and his wife have seven-hour-long tantric sex sessions, people have been scratching their heads. Seven hours? But the confusion likely comes from the word "sex" being in there and the fact that many people still define sex as intercourse only.
Sex is an umbrella term. There's no way to have sex, so that's where tantric comes into play as another option in how to have sex.
Tantric Sex Definition
Tantric sex is connecting with your partner in a way that isn't just physical, but also on levels that share energy and passion, creating a mindful intimacy. Tantra is Sanskrit for "weave," so in practicing tantric sex, you're weaving everything — not just your physical body — into your partner and they're doing the same. It's the union of the forces within us that we far too often don't slow down enough to recognize and experience. It's truth, emotions, awareness, and respect for how sacred sex can be — no matter how you have it.
While traditional sex tends to focus on orgasms, tantric focuses on experiencing sex as the journey it is and every sensation that comes with being sincerely intimate with your partner. It's a movement of sexual energy, not unlike sexual meditation with your partner, so you can become equally aligned with yourself as well as with each other.
Benefits of Tantric Sex
When engaging in tantric sex, you do a lot of things differently than you would during traditional sex. Because you're allowing yourself to be vulnerable physically, emotionally, and mentally, you're completely open and ready to share as well as absorb. With such openness comes benefits.
It eases tension and stress.
Although sex in general is regarded as a stress reliever, tantric sex relieves stress because it's not goal-orientated. For partners who struggle with performance anxiety, tantric can be reassuring and comforting because the orgasms have been taken out of the equation.
It brings you closer to your partner.
While breathing together, looking into each other's eyes (soul gazing), or simple stroking each other's arms creates a closeness, the release of oxytocin while engaging in this behavior creates an even deeper connection.
Oxytocin is known as the "cuddle hormone," so the effects it produces when released from the hypothalamus in the brain are intoxicating. Contrary to myths, oxytocin isn't only released during sex. You can see your lover walk into a room and this cuddle hormone can kick into gear. During tantric, when it's released you sort of get to marinate in it and enjoy it.
It's good for your health.
Because, like meditation, tantric sex is so focused on breathing and getting in tune with one's body, as well as your partner's, you learn to recognize what feels right and what doesn't — on a non-sexual level. You develop a greater sense of how your body should function at its healthiest.
Breathing promotes blood circulation, something that's not only important for arousal but in your day-to-day activities. It also aids in detoxifying the body of physical and emotional components that you may not have been able to have shaken otherwise.
It helps you understand yourself.
Whether you practice tantric sex with your partner or solo, taking time to explore your body beyond your genitals is an extraordinary experience and a perfect example of self-care. Society has taught us their idea of beauty which has created mental health issues for people of all genders. Seeing your body for the complex, deserving of love and appreciation temple that it is, can help restore lost confidence or build self-esteem where it never existed before.
How to Have Tantric Sex
When it comes to actually putting tantric into motion, it's important to expand your idea of sex before you even begin. In a 2018 TEDx Talk titled "The Power of Mindful Sex," Tantra practitioner and teacher Diana Richardson told her audience:
"The problem isn't with sex itself. The problem lies with the style of having it. Our common style is 'mind-filled' sex... because we're always thinking about it, even when we're having it." As she explained, it's paramount that the mind be "mind-full" instead, as in being indelibly aware. "Your whole body is used as a sensing organ. It's more like you are being sex rather than doing sex."
When preparing for tantric sex, you immediately want to leave expectations and goals at the door. As Richardson pointed out in her TEDx Talk, you can't have mindful sex if your mind is filled with, well, anything.
1. Find a good time.
You shouldn't go into Tantra thinking you'll give it two hours, then call it quits. When you create set times or decide to practice in a place where you might be interrupted, you're creating limits and there's no place for limits in tantric sex or the preparation for it.
2. Find a comfortable space.
Make sure the space you'll be practicing in is void of distraction (read: put your phone in the other room) and cozy. Soften the room's energy by dimming the lights, burning some in incense, and having blankets and pillows spread throughout. Think of it as though you're creating a ceremonial love hut where both you and your partner feel equal parts safe and at ease.
3. Clear your mind.
Yes, this is easier said than done. If you've found that meditating, yoga, stretching, going for a run, or even journaling for half an hour are ways in which you're able to ground yourself, then these are things you want to do in preparation.
There's no type of breathing for tantric sex, so it's best if you experiment with a few and see which is a fit.
1. Deep and controlled breathing.
As you would with meditation, breathing during Tantra involves breathing as deep as you can, through the diaphragm. To give you an example of how deep these breaths should be, if done correctly, you'll feel it in your stomach. Breathe in deeply so your chest expands and enlarges — this is a sign that your diaphragm is contracting and flattening — and allow this inhalation to last five seconds.
Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears. You want to relax your body, not create tension. When you release, you want to release fully and audibly so the breathing out lasts five seconds. Again, you should feel it in your stomach and observe it in your chest as it sort of deflates and your belly softens as your diaphragm returns to its dome-like shape. Helpful tip: looking at photos of a diaphragm will help you with your breathing because you'll be able to envision how it moves with each breath.
2. Breath of fire.
While the deep breaths relax and make you aware, "breath of fire," another tantric breathing technique, is meant to increase energy as well as awareness. For this one, you want to breathe very quickly through your nose, ideally breathing three full breaths per second for a total of 15 seconds. Draw your attention to your stomach as it moves and, like you would in yoga, imagine there being a string pulling your belly button back toward your spine. Return to your normal breath for 15 to 30 seconds, then practice breath of fire again, but this time for 20 seconds instead of 15. Then go back to normal breathing. Each time you do your quick breathing, try to prolong the session by another five seconds.
3. 4-7-8 breath.
Again, counting is key with this breathing technique. When you count, you become focused on your breathing until you've reached a point where these types of inhales and exhales come naturally to you. It's these rhythmic breaths that will make it easier to synchronize your breathing with your partner.
When doing 4-7-8, you want to first exhale through your mouth, then inhale through your nose as you count to four. Hold your breath for seven seconds, then release it while counting to eight. Follow this with three more rounds so as to make four complete cycles. Yes, this one will take a lot of practice, but the more repetitions you add, the more comfortable it will become. You may even reach a point where it's second nature for you.
Getting started with tantric touch.
As you start to move toward tantric touch, make sure you're as present as possible — that you're mindful and not mind-filled, your breathing is centering you, and every part of you is relaxed and you feel it. Release your jaw; humans hold so much tension there.
It may take you a bit to sink into full relaxation, but when you do, begin to touch each other. This could involve hugging, kissing, cuddling, stroking each other's hair, smelling their skin, tasting their mouth, and similar displays of appreciation and affection that incorporate all five senses.
Create a circuit between your hands and hearts by placing your hand on their heart as they breathe in, as they do the same to you. While doing all of this, keep your eyes open. When we close our eyes, it sometimes leads our mind in other directions away from being in the moment. Because of this, you want to keep your eyes on your partner at all times while you continue to touch each other.
At this point, consider incorporating lingam and yoni massaging. In Sanskrit, lingam isn't just the word for penis, but translates to "wand of light," while yoni translates to a "sacred place," as in the vulva and vagina. While you may be thinking that massaging your partner's penis is basically a hand job, because it's being performed in a tantric manner, it's not done in a way to get them off. Instead, it's a thoughtful approach and respectful touch that's focused on pleasure and curiosity and not a goal. It's the same when giving a yoni massage — it's not about an orgasm, it's about enjoying the ride and exploration.
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As Richardson told her TEDx Talk audience, "Instead of building up and building up excitement, you relax into it — a little excitement and then relax, a little excitement then relax." There's no trying to beat the clock in tantric sex.
Top 3 penetrative tantric sex positions to try.
Although there are dozens of tantric sex positions, just as there are dozens of traditional sex positions, the top three for penetrative Tantra are:
1. The Yab-Yum.
Also known as The Lotus, when tantric sex positions come up, this is probably the one you envision. The person who will be doing the penetrating sits down with their legs crossed, as the person who will be receiving lowers themselves down so as to be penetrated. Once in place, the partners wrap their arms and legs around each other. From here, they can stay as they are or rock back and forth while enjoying the embrace and intimacy of the position.
No matter how you choose to move, you want to steer clear of the automated in-out movements with which we're all so familiarized. Instead, you want to enjoy every inch of each other's bodies, the sound of their breath, and the beat of their heart against yours — that's where your mind should be.
2. The Goddess Pose.
The Goddess pose is actually what we'd call the cowgirl position. The partner who will be doing the inserting lays down and is straddled by the receptive partner. As much as this is a great position for those with a clitoris, but because our concern isn't orgasm-related, the highlight here for Tantric is teh ability to keep constant eye contact while enjoying the penetration. You can also sync your breath as you soul gaze and touch each other's hearts with your hands.
3. The Tiger.
Because tantric sex is about heightening your intimacy, getting into The Tiger position, which is essentially the spooning position, is perfect for when you really want to slow down the ride and not use up all your stamina. While spooning, the penetrative partner inserts their penis or dildo into the vagina or anus of the receiving partner.
Although it's not an ideal position for eye contact, it is perfect for cuddling and deep penetration — if the latter is something you want to explore. However, if you're the receiving partner, you'll want to look over your shoulder from time to time so you have those moments of connection and truly seeing each other.
Although toys are always a great accessory to any type of sex you're having, when it comes to tantric sex — or tantric masturbation — you want to stay away from the vibrators and stick to toys that offer far more than a quick orgasm. Enter: Crystal Pleasure Tools.
Before you start thinking that crystals are some new-age type of way to get off (and you're not totally wrong), crystals and gemstones bring their own energy to the body's energy field. When this happens, sensations heighten, not just physically, but emotionally. A crystal wand or crystal yoni eggs can be used internally or externally to stimulate and energize the body.
When you take technology out of the equation, you get back to basics, to the source from where we all came: the earth. You can use these crystals while giving a lingam or yoni massage as part of your arousal techniques or by gently rubbing them against the skin to test or ultimately transcend your old idea of what sex is supposed to be.
When you're ready to explore other ways to have tantric sex, you can include cockwarming while in positions like The Lotus or The Tiger, in which you and your partner enjoy a physical and emotional connection with non-movement sex. When giving a lingam or yoni massage to your partner (or yourself!), you can incorporate couples edging.
Edging is when the genitals are stimulated right up to an orgasm but, before going over the end, the orgasm is delayed. For those who enjoy edging, this technique can be used over and over again, making it especially delicious for a nice, slow, drawn-own tantric session. When you finally climax, if that's something you choose to do, although it shouldn't be the goal, you'll experience an orgasm unlike any other — and to have it with your partner in such a mindful setting makes it even more extraordinary.
Most Frequently Asked Questions on Tantric Sex
1. What are the origins of tantric sex?
The origins of Tantra go as far back as 5000 years ago. Native to India, practitioners of the Buddhist and Hindu religions found a way to bring sexuality and spirituality together so as to enhance sexual relations, sensations, and experiences through mindfulness. Because the practice of Tantra, in all its forms, was (and is) about slowing down and really being aware of everything you feel, the goal of tantric sex is sharing energy, intimate moments, and even if the partners are lucky enough, enlightenment.
But Tantra isn't just about sex. Tantric techniques that many people engage in on a regular basis are yoga and meditation. Tantric breathing is also practiced in yoga and meditation, as well as way to ground oneself — and, yes, also during sex.
2. What is the difference between classic Tantra and Neotantra?
"Neo" is the Greek prefix for "new" or "young." So, once you add "Neo" to anything with ancient or Eastern roots, you can expect it to mean a new or Westernized version of the original. What this means is that while Neotantra is a modernized version of the classic Tantra, they're definitely different. While there may be some aspects that overlap, because Neotantra is the result of Tantra being viewed through a modern lens, some of the practices aren't the same, while others are entirely new to fit the agenda of those who practice Neotantra.
3. Is Tantra the same as the Kama Sutra?
Short answer: no, but they are related. The Kama Sutra is a tantric book that was written by Indian philosopher Vātsyāyana in Sanskrit somewhere between 400 BCE and 200 CE, according to historians, although the exact date no one knows. Kama loosely translates to "desire, pleasure, love, or sex," while Sutra translates to "text."
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While tantric sex is about enjoying sex in a spiritual, mindful, connecting way, the Kama Sutra is more about pleasure and fulfilling desires on a more sexual act-related plane.
4. Can Tantra help with sexual trauma and PTSD?
Although Tantra can help with sexual trauma and PTSD, it doesn't mean it will necessarily work for everyone. Trauma affects people differently and because of this, people heal from and learn how to manage PTSD in different ways.
When people practice Tantra, they experience a release. We carry everything we've been through with us, so naturally, sexual trauma and PTSD are part of that and its effects on the body and mind are toxic. Tantric healing teaches people to feel first, then think. It helps them learn how to get in touch with the places that are holding them back and shake it from them in a mindful way that recognizes the past that haunts them and the future possibilities.
In some cases, this holistic approach to trauma is performed through lingam and yoni massages. These are done in a safe space with a professional practitioner who talks to the patient every step of the way. Each movement and touch are consensual and are kept within the comfort zone and personal boundaries of the person receiving the massage. The intention is to free the patient from the physical and mental effects of their trauma by promoting trust, mind-body connection, and acceptance. It's done in a very nurturing and caring way and may require more than one session.